Slade Farm - Land of Our Future Stories
Slade Farm is a 800-acre organic mixed farm in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Polly and Graeme farm a beautiful parcel of land where the green fields of the Vale of Glamorgan meet the rugged coast. They live and work on Slade Farm with their young family and have been running the 800-acre organic mixed farm for over 20 years.
Sitting proudly above Southerndown beach, the farm is home to around 150 cows, 50 pigs, 500 ewes and 800 lambs. They also grow 200 acres of grain and an acre of vegetables.
‘We have a story to tell – that we can produce high quality, nutritious food beneficial to the environment of Wales and connect people to where their food has come from.’
Polly and Graeme are the third generation to rent this tenant farm. The land has been farmed for at least the last 600 years and the couple are very conscious that they are temporary custodians of the land; they feel strongly that they have a responsibility to leave a positive environmental legacy for future generations.
‘We believe that farming organically is the only sensible way to farm for the environment and for the quality of produce, and we farm the way we do so there is a legacy into the future.’
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Nature and Climate
Their farming system is built on sustainability. They do not add external inputs such as nitrogen fertilisers and pesticides to their land and they feed their animals solely from food produced on the farm, rather than buying in imported feed. They also grow clover in their grass, which fixes nitrogen in the soil, and acts as a natural fertiliser.
‘We don't use any pesticides or herbicides as an organic farm and we work with experts to develop natural habitats for our native farmland birds, wildflowers and animal species.’
To encourage birdlife they sow most of their cereals in the spring and harvest it in the autumn. This has resulted in large numbers of bird visitors who are registered on the ‘red list’ as being in critical decline.
‘Most farmers grow cereals in the winter as you get higher yields, but we sow most of ours in spring as it means there is stubble in the fields for the birds to feed over winter. On our last bird count we were so pleased to see over 50 yellowhammers overwintering on one of our designated wildlife areas.’
Meadows have been in steep decline across the UK since the 1930s but Graeme and Polly are working to maintain and manage meadows on their farm and have a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and other special flower meadows.
'As well as the patchwork of different fields, we’ve also got grasslands and meadows and this mixture of different farming types increases diversity, which increases the small bugs, which increases the small birds, which increases the big birds.’
As well as growing grain to feed their livestock, Polly and Graeme also grow the ancient wheat, Hen Gymro (Old Welshman) which goes for milling locally and then is sold to bakers. They also sell wheat through Organic Arable as well as oats that last year won ‘White’s best porridge oats in the UK’ award.
Up to 20% of their organic beef, lamb and mutton and 100% of their pork is sold through their on-site farm shop as well as in meat boxes that are delivered monthly to the local community. The rest of the lamb and beef is supplied to a supermarket.
They sell their vegetables through a Community Supported Agriculture scheme (CSA), which means they work with the community to provide weekly vegetable bags for the growing season.
‘Our veg bag scheme is a way of bringing the land, the community and the farmer together.’
The community is very important to Slade Farm and they encourage customers who can afford it to pay a little extra towards vegetable bags for people on lower incomes. They work with a local charity who distributes these vegetable bags whilst supporting young families, showing them how to use the vegetables. Last growing season, ten bags a week were supplied to people who might otherwise face barriers to accessing fresh produce and getting involved.
As another way of connecting with the community, Polly and Graeme host farm visits from five primary schools in Barry giving children the opportunity to learn about farming and to find out more about where their food comes from. Among other things, the children have learnt about manure and the importance of leguminous plants for fixing nitrogen as well as animal husbandry.
‘We are really trying to engage kids and get them to understand how farming works as there is such a massive disconnect between communities and farming and we are trying to solve that with farm visits.’